There must be integrity between body and life. You must not do with your body what you’re not willing to do with your whole life.
- Tim Keller
*Quote taken from the Timothy Keller Sermon Podcast, “Love and Lust”
The Christian attitude toward sex is popularly thought to be the Platonist view, but most definitely it is not. It differs quite radically from each of these three prominent views.
Contrary to the Platonist view, the Bible teaches that sex is very good (Gen. 1:31). God would not create and command something to be done in marriage (1 Cor. 7:3–5) that was not good. The Song of Solomon is filled with barefaced rejoicing in sexual pleasure. In fact, the Bible can be very uncomfortable for the prudish.
Contrary to the realist ‘sex-as-appetite’ view, the Bible teaches that sexual desires are broken and usually idolatrous. All by themselves, sexual appetites are not a safe guide, and we are instructed to flee our lusts (1 Cor. 6:18). Our sexual appetite does not operate the same as our other appetites. To illustrate this point, C. S. Lewis asks us to imagine a planet where people pay money to watch someone eat a mutton chop, where people ogle magazine pictures of food. If we landed on such a planet, we would think that the appetite of these people was seriously deranged. Yet that is just how modern people approach sex.
Contrary to the romantic view, the Bible teaches that love and sex are not primary for individual happiness. What the Bible says about sex and marriage ‘has a singularly foreign sound for those of us brought up on romantic notions of marriage and sex. We are struck by the stark realism of the Pauline recommendations in 1 Corinthians 7 . . . but [most of all by] the early church’s legitimation of singleness as a form of life [which] symbolized the necessity of the church to grow through witness and conversion.’
The Bible views sex not primarily as self-fulfillment but as a way to know Christ and build his kingdom. That view undercuts both the traditional society’s idolatry of sex-for-social-standing and the secular society’s idolatry of sex-for-personal-fulfillment.
- Tim Keller
The moralist tends to see sex as dirty or at least a dangerous impulse that leads constantly to sin. There will be an approach-avoidance relationship with sex. The uneasy conscience of the moralist will lead to either complete avoidance OR to a very driven, breathless need for sexual experience. Both come from a glory-vacuum within, which makes sex into a way to fill the emptiness. On the other hand, the hedonist sees sex as merely biological and physical appetite. Thus the hedonist may be less convoluted and troubled about sex, yet they have also given up on the deep longing of their heart to have union with someone sexually that is completely, unconditionally, and permanently true to them.
But the gospel shows us that sexuality is to reflect the self-giving of Christ. He gave himself completely without conditions. So we are not to seek intimacy sexually but then hold back control of our lives. If we gives ourselves sexually we are to give ourselves legally, socially, personally – utterly. Sex is only to happen in a totally committed, permanent relationship of marriage. Through Christ’s transformation of us, that ideal is somewhat realizable even between two sinners.
- Tim Keller
Acknowledge that often when this topic comes up the rhetoric gets heated – and those who represent the Christian position are not always respectful of those who disagree, nor do they have sound reasons for their position. Christians have no more or less of a right to tell other people how to live their lives than anyone else. But we all have ways we think the world should be; and we all have the right to try to contend for these views respectfully. The gospel – that we are saved only by sheer grace – should help Christians to do this without self-righteousness.
Homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality – sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman. But that belief should have no impact on a church’s or a Christian’s desire to love and serve the needs and interests of all their neighbors, including gay people, people of other faiths, and so on.
Note that there is not widespread division over what the Bible says about homosexuality. All three branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) agree – on at least four things: one, that every mention of homosexual practice in the Bible says that it is wrong; two, that it is specifically prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments; three, that it did not just reflect the prejudices of the day – it cut against the views of ancient cultures; and four, that the whole arc of the Bible begins with a heterosexual marriage (Adam and Eve) and ends with the vision of one – the wedding feast in the book of Revelation.
- Tim Keller